Posted by Editoress on 03/6/05
The Taipei International Cycle Show is currently underway. Unlike the fall shows, the Taipei show is for the manufacturers, and is where they make decisions for the next season (ie, 2006). While much of the business that takes place is over mundane specifications for low end and mass market bikes, there is also enough going on to pique interest to the cycling enthusiast.
Protectionism in the Canadian Market?
We have already reported on the appeal for global protectionism in Canada, by domestic manufacturers Procycle and Raleigh Canada. The claim is for a 48% duty on all bikes from outside of NAFTA (Canada, U.S. and Mexico). Procycle and Raleigh have seen a steady erosion of their market share over the past few years, despite anti-dumping duties for lower end bikes from Taiwan and China, as production has shifted to other countries such as Vietnam - the current request is for protectist action, with no suggestion of anti-dumping. We have been talking with many of the importers who would be affected, and will be providing a full report in the near future, but we can say that the importers are organizing to present arguments to the Canadian International Trade Tribunal (CITT). The feeling among them is that the Canadian government is unlikely to provide this type of production when it was unwilling to do so for the much larger textile industry.
Carbon, Carbon Everywhere
Carbon is becoming the standard for bicycle manufacturing, and the Taiwanese are among the world leaders in the use of this material, especially for bicycles. At all price points, construction techniques are becoming increasingly sophisticated. However, there is a growing concern about a coming shortage in high quality carbon fibre - mainly due to aerospace use, and specifically because of the new A380 airplane. This is the new, super-sized passenger jet from Airbus in Europe due to go into service in the next couple of years. If the supply of carbon gets tight, the bicycle industry will lose out to the aerospace industry.
No, this isn't that old 70's show with Mr T all decked out in chains... This is an initiative launched by some of the top manufacturers in the Taiwanese industry to improve their operations and quality control. Led by Tony Lo, the president of Giant, the organization is attempting to implement some of the supply chain and efficiency practices that Toyota has brought to the car industry. The Taiwanese companies (21) that have joined the initiative have agreed to improve efficiency and quality, and work together cooperatively to decrease time-to-market and costs. Some of the sponsored partners to the group include Specialized and Trek, and, at this show, Ernesto Colnago agreed to bring his company onboard. This is a tremendous coup for the group since, as Colnago said himself:
"The world of cycling is changing. Five years ago it would have been unthinkable for me to take a Taiwan partner. We are the first Italian company to move part of its production to Taiwan. Colnago wants to cooperate with the best, and that is why we joined the A-Team." Colnago will be using Taiwan to produce a mid-priced line.
Both Specialized and Trek said that they have noticed a significant quality improvement since the A-Team started in the last year and a half. Having said that, the bottleneck is still Shimano, who are not able to meet the enormous upsurge in demand for high-end road parts.
SRAM was the only company actually showing 2006 product, but this is what we were able to piece together regarding the expected offerings from the Big 3 (Shimano, SRAM and Campagnolo).
Shimano - a triple for Dura Ace 10 speed; 10 speed will also move downmarket to 105 (bike companies were saying that Shimano is offering deals on 9 speed, so there may be some attractively priced 9 speed bikes coming); LX gets the "pod" shifters of XT and XTR, and the lower-end groups all get a sprucing up and added features.
Campagnolo - apparently little change, other than a flat bar shifter for use with trekking/hybrid-type bikes, and some cosmetic changes.
SRAM - more carbon cranks in the TruVativ line (including a carbon road crank) and a new very trick trigger shifter for the high-end X.0 group. This shifter has a carbon top plate and weighs only 225 grams per pair. The triggers are completely adjustable for individual reach preferences and feature something called zero-loss travel, meaning that there is no slack to take up before making shifts. The X.0 rear derailleur also gets carbon, bringing the weight to 192 grams (short cage version).
Lots of changes to Rock Shox, with Motion Control adjustment and damping extending through much of the line. The Boxxer series gets a lighter weight World Cup version - air shock, externally adjustable, 8" travel and sub-7 pounds. A Freeride Boxxer will also be introduced. The Pike series gets new model names, graphics and Motion Control, while the Revelation is a completely new series (two models) of all-mountain forks. The Reba all-mountain series receives a World Cup version, with the same carbon crown/steerer of the SID. The only change to the SID cross-country forks is Motion Control on the World Cup model. There are also new entry level models - Recon and Tora. The SID rear suspension unit has been replaced with the Ario, which has a redesigned air cam for more a linear action spring curve. SRAM says that stuff should start to appear on new bikes mid-summer, and after market by the fall.
Canadians Lead Company Rebirths
Lance Bohlen, ex-Rocky, ex-Specialized and, recently, ex-Pacific, is going to head up a rebirth of the Kore component line. When we sat down, it was quite obvious that he was excited to be back into designing products (rather than spec'ing them for bikes). A new saddle, new stem/headset system (very cool integrated system), new brake cables/casings for discs, new wheels, rims and hubs are few of the things Lance is working on. You can expect to see this stuff on bikes for next year.
Marshal Cant, also ex-Rocky, has been working with the revived Syncros line for over a year now. The company, owned by Ritchey, has developed a number of bomb-proof items for the freeride/downhill crowd, led by hubs, the beefiest pedals I have ever seen, and some extremely nice rims. Wheels are about to follow, and a new cross-country tire is in the works, as well as an all-mountain stem. Also, a trick Syncros watch...
Knog - very nice Australian bags and panniers. The backpack is particularly interesting, with a series of removable liners to carry different types of stuff. Also some cool LED lights for barends and to strap on your seatpost - both will be less than $15 Canadian retail. The company is in the U.S., and is working on Canadian distribution.
Street Surfer - Think of replacing the front wheel of your bike with 4 over-sized skateboard wheels mounted to a suspension system that uses an articulated joint for leaning in any direction (just look at the pictures...). Meant mainly for the BMX freestyle and skateboard crowd, this thing is unbelievable in the corners. It does not steer like a bike, more carves corners like a snowbaord or skiis. Don't stop pedalling when you corner - in fact, speed up! Wow. Many licencing discussions underway around the world.
VR Game - This was tucked in the corner of a booth, with a huge crowd around. Stick your bike in what looks like a regular rear wheel-mount trainer, and put the front wheel in a separate holder. The unit is said to be compatible with most PC/XBox/PS2 racing games, and works for multiple players. For 16"-26" wheel size. Ride while watching a computer or television screen and steer, speed up or slow down, all mirrored on the screen. In the show test unit you are doing a downhill MTB run. Major jumps, dodging through trees, dodging deer, hikers, fire, lightning, riding through slippery mud, and aiming to gobble up energy shots that increase your speed. When the person riding crashes and burns by running head first into a tree, everyone watching winces. This is definitely motivating for sprint training...
Taipei International Road Race - Well, actually a 4 corner crit using a miss-and-out format, but lots of enthusiasim, and they hope to grow the event in future years (it had a UCI sanction). Mostly local riders, but there were a few imports, including ex-pat Canadian racer Tim Barkley.
Earthquakes - At 3 am Sunday morning (local time) an earthquake measuring 5.9 hit the region. Definitely an "experience" - especially when you were woken from a sound sleep in a tall hotel building, which was creaking and swaying (enough to slosh water out of the toilet bowl). One group of Italian exhibitors were so unnerved, they spent the rest of the night in the hotel lobby...
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